Windows: You say major; I say minor

Windows: You say major; I say minor

Summary: Starting with Windows 7, the logic and naming structure that Microsoft worked to established for Windows seems to breaking down. And yes, I'm going to reopen the can of worms about Windows Server 2008 being one and the same as Windows 7 Server. The reason I'm not letting go of this is because a bunch of things still just don't add up (and not just to me -- to a number of other folks in the Windows community with whom I have spoken).


Over the past couple of years, both the Windows client and Windows server teams have been structuring their releases to alternate between major and minor ones.

(On the server side, the Softies have been rolling out a major release followed by a minor update (known as Release 2, or R2) every two years. On the client side, the timing has been off, but the major/minor cadence has been pretty similar.)

Starting with Windows 7, however, that logic and naming structure that Microsoft has worked to establish for Windows seems to breaking down.

Yes, I'm going to reopen the can of worms about Windows Server 2008 being one and the same as Windows 7 Server. The reason I'm not letting go of this is because a bunch of things still just don't add up (and not just to me -- to a number of other folks in the Windows community with whom I have spoken).

In the August 18 posting to the Windows Server blog about Windows Server 2008 R2/Windows 7 Server, Group Product Manager Ward Ralston noted that even though Windows 7 Server (a k a Windows Server 2008 R2) is an interim, more minor release, "the (Windows 7) client in fact will be a major release."

Hmmm. No one seems to be buying that. Customers, partners and Microsoft pundits -- basically, almost everyone other than Microsoft execs -- is already considering Windows 7 client to be a minor release. Microsoft officials have been careful to explain that there won't be any major changes to Windows 7 client and that most apps that work on Vista should work on Windows 7 without a problem. And given that it's a lot harder to get customers excited about a minor release than a major one, the Windows team's reticence to call any Windows release a "minor" update is understandable.

At the risk of being accused of being a tin-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist, let me posit a couple of thoughts as to what might have happened:

Possibility A: The Server team did, indeed, decide to release one fewer versions of Server (killing off what originally was going to be Windows Server 2008 R2 and going straight to Windows 7 Server). I don't know exactly when this decision might have been made. But as you can see from this 2007 roadmap slide on the UX Evanglist blog, Microsoft's plan, as recently as November 2007, was to ship Windows Server 2008 in late 2007 or early 2008. If that schedule continued, Windows Server 2008 R2 would hit in late 2009/early 2010, and Windows Server 7 in late 2011/early 2012. But Stephen "UX Evangelist" Chapman also has a  roadmap slide, dated January 2008, which seems to equate Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 (though that slide also may be interpreted as Windows 7 client and Windows Server 2008 R2 being built atop the same code base).

Possibility B: The Server team decided the R2 naming had become beyond confusing and decided to go with big, round numbers (Windows 7 Server, Windows 8 Server, Windows 9 Server) instead. That would mean the product which should have been named "Windows 7 Server" (if Microsoft stuck to existing naming conventions) is now actually Windows 8 Server (maybe?). Or is it Windows 7 Server R2? Hmmm. I think it is interesting Microsoft is declining to provide even a placeholder name for the major release of Windows Server due to follow Windows Server 2008 R2.

Before I get another email from anonymous at accusing me of intentionally misleading readers (and why would i do that -- not quite sure on that one), let me just say I find the usually transparent Windows Server team's opacity on this to be unusual.

Update (September 29): Stephen Chapman, over at the UX Evangelist site, documents how Microsoft did, indeed, change its plans for Windows Server.  As Chapman notes, Microsoft's original plan was to release a minor Longhorn Server R2, followed by a major "Blackcomb" Server (Windows 7 Server).  Based on Chapman's research and logic, it sounds like the Windows Server marketing team has some work ahead to realign its branding with its "major/mior" release cadence.

What do you think Microsoft should codename/call the release of Windows Server that follows Windows Server 2008 R2?


Other write-in candidates?

Update: As a few readers have pointed out, looks like the head of Windows Engineering, Steven Sinofsky, and I were on the same wavelength today. Scary! After reading the latest Sinofsky post, I'm still not sure if the Windows team and its leader consider Windows 7 to be a major or a minor release -- but I think the internal view is that Windows 7 will be a major one. Sinofsky blogged:

 "The magnitude of a release is as much about your perspective on the features as it is about the features themselves. One could even ask if being declared a major release is a compliment or not. As engineers planning a product we decide up front the percentage of our development team will that work on the release and the extent of our schedule—with the result in hand customers each decide for themselves if the release is “major”, though of course we like to have an opinion....

From our perspective, we dedicated our full engineering team and a significant schedule to building the Windows 7 client OS. That makes it a major undertaking by any definition. We intend for Windows 7 to be an awesome release."

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Servers, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • They can call it anything they please. It is still overpriced JUNK.

    Get Linux :-)
    • Overpriced!!! Cheapest operating system around.

      Unless you're willing to come and teach 200 users to use Linux and OpenOffice for free. With a staff turn-around of approximately 5 a week.

      I don't have to pay to train our users, they pay for that themselves, at home.

      Persuade people to use Linux and OpenOffice at home and you've half way there.

      Then, unfortunately, my American paymasters will still not let me implement Linux (for office use), because they say that support is not guaranteed as there is no support contract between us and the supplier of the OS.

      Proprietary software is the 'American dream'. Write some code, if it works and people like it, get rich.
      • the 'fear factor', maybe?

        <font color=grey><em>"...because they say that support is not guaranteed as there is <font color=darkred>no support contract between us and the supplier of the OS</font>."</em></font><br>
        <a href="" target=_blank>"Open source and the ?fear factor? mentality"</a><br>
        "<a href="" target=_blank>Microsoft ... would spend up to another $100 million</a> to purchase certificates it will distribute to users who can cash them in <font color=darkred>for support on their <strong>Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Servers</strong></font>."<br>
        • I'm happy, but...

          ...where is the bit of paper I can pass to the managers, the purchasing department, even the legal team to keep them satisfied we are supported.

          The concern for them is that being supported by a 'community' is that they cannot tie them down to a legally binding contract. ie if the software provider does not deliver who do they call?

          Again, it also comes down to the cost of retraining staff to use packages they are not familiar with. For the same reason I have no plans to move off of XP/Office 2003 machines in the near future.
      • 200!

        You have 200 staff using Windows Server!!??

        With all my effort put into not patronising - unless you have 190 sysadmins and 10 network engineers, perhaps you're referring Windows Desktops...?

        Or perhaps you're referring to a system with 200 users, networked through Microsoft Server? If that's the case, user experience doesn't relate to what the server does in the background. Well, except for performance but lets not get into that...
      • On teaching 200 users

        It turns out that IT infrastructure is commonly implemented by IT technicians. Configuring a system is up to the system admins regardless of software being used.

        A double-click at the user-end is still a double-click, regardless of OS.
      • Or spend double; Mac apps and a Mac (which is just a PC with an extra TCPM)

        Windows is here to stay, unless Cloud computing takes off. And given the tornado warning it's proven to be so far, I don't think the silver lining is going to be worth it...
    • Vista Rules

      Linux stinks and does not work
  • Duck the question

    Maybe they should do another theme change. For a while it was a series number (3.1), then a year (95, 98, 98SE, 2000), then a letter combo (XP), then a car name (Vista), and now it looks like they want to muddy the relationships again.

    How about "Odyssey," or "Ad Astra," or something else unrelated to previous names so they don't have to spin things too hard?
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Call it Bob

      And when its works well, that takes an arrow from our quivers of
    • I think they should have gone with.....

      smokin' sweet a** OS for vista. <br><br>
      Then for the next version....<br><br>
      Winux. Just for the reaction. It would be totally worth it.
    • you're exaggerating

      Server OS always had the year of the release.
      They might have code names while under development (eg Longhorn etc) but when released its Windows Server 2000 or Windows Server 2008.

      Client OS have the names XP, Vista etc.
    • Re: Duck ...

      How about "our Omega" as this will be the last kick at the cat if it isn?t ?SUPER?
  • What's in a name ...

    Seriously, who cares if it's called Windows 7 Server or Windows Server 2008 R2?

    It's not a tough thing to figure out. Vista has a bad reputation. They are making the Windows 7 client as a minor rev to Vista (I'll only believe it's a major rev when I see it), and I think enterprise IT folks seem to like when the workstation and server products have the same name.

    This is outside of technology and into marketing.
  • I'm confused - seriously

    I hate to say it, but Windows 7 client is beginning to sound like a minor release indeed. With both the Server and Client expected to RTM the same time, it pretty much adds up that Windows 7 will actually be version 6.1. The reason I am hearing for the code name is because Steve Sinofsky likes whole numbers, but at the same time, it just does not add up why you would call the codename 'Windows 7', unless the Windows Team is considering it a 7th release of the Windows product, not technically a 7th 'version' of the NT kernel itself. We must take into account, Microsoft stop using the NT version in its branding with the release of Windows 2000 which was 5.0, XP 5.1, Server 2003 5.2.

    Here is the problem I just discovered after writing the above, Microsoft could not use that logic, since it would mean that XP was the 6th release of Windows, Vista the 7th and 7 being the 8th.

    Microsoft needs to explain themselves. If it continues with the 6.1 version by Beta 1, its definitely a Vista R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 releases.

    What was so hard in going with Windows Server 2009 or Windows Server 2010? The out of date naming scheme would to me reflect badly on the products marketing and significance to those interested in upgrading. I am confused to be honest with you, but as Microsoft continues to build this thing, it seems that there will be more confusing turns along the way. My understanding and I hope this is it, but it seems the features in Windows 7, client and server may reflect version 7. I want the next release of Windows to clearly reflect meaning to the end user, I just don't want it to be some release that is edging on almost sounding like a glorified Service Pack.
    Mr. Dee
    • Another thing about versioning

      During the early parts of the Longhorn development, when the OS was at Alpha, Microsoft christened it version 6.0, I am talking builds 4xxx. The leaked Windows 7 builds we have been seeing earlier this year have been using the version 6.1 for the kernel. Some said that was because not all of the product had matured enough to become a part of what at Microsoft is called the 'winmain' build. Persons in the enthusiast community assumed that by PDC 2008 Windows 7's kernel would reflect version 7, but with PDC only a couple months away, its looking unlikely at this stage.
      Mr. Dee
  • RE: Windows: You say major; I say minor

    Does it really matter to most people what the internal codenames may be? Equally, could we define minor and major better (as for most businesses any change in underlying IT and possibly valuable new capabilities is always weighing up risk vs benefit - with differing results for different customers). A "minor" with a killer feature that some customers must have would be major to them.

    I seem to see more and more speculation notes on this blog (particularly on this topic) than actual news, which is a shame compared to the past. It used to be valuable on gaining a pulse of external perceptions of Microsoft and a way to garner support for shared ideas, but now just seems to be a forum for ABMs. Maybe it should be renamed from "All About Microsoft" to "Possibly, vaguely about Microsoft"
    What the major or minor release offers in terms of value to customers and solving their pain points is all that really matters, and when the time is right these details will be announced with a level of certainty. So far for most speculation, I've seen a rebuttal from Microsoft that suggests they are still consistent to their roadmap messages - but all this noise makes it look like they are not.

    Aren't there several conferences coming up that seem to be suggesting they will reveal more on many of these speculation topics? Also, can't someone use the ability to ask the questions of Microsoft - and wait for an answer before sending out "I read this and read that, and put 2+2 together and got 15 (codename 10+5 R2)"
    • Agreed

      Its under the hood not the name on the dash.

      The only people who seem to really care are the die hard Linux crowd - although i can not understand why.
  • Jus'Don't Call Me Late For Dinner!

    Aloha! Mary Jo!

    ALL Your Questions...

    RE: Major/Minor Windows Vista SE (a.k.a. Windows 7)Release,...

    Are Answered Here:

    Engineering Windows 7 : Measuring the scale of a release

    By Steven Sinofsky


  • I predicted Vista SE during Longhorn

    There were a number of features removed from Vista because of the time lost on XP SP2. Instead, the time was spent on improving the code (and merging with the server kernel).

    The new version will be considered major by customers if the new features are significant. It may be considered minor by those more concerned with design issues.

    The Vista aspersions will have to begin all over again when the new version comes out. Maybe with some new material or maybe reycling the old complaints. For people who consider spreading negative comments about Microsoft products a significant activity, the release will be major.

    So whether the release is major or minor can depend upon what an individual considers important about a new version of Windows.

    I think the new version will be what Vista would have been without SP 2. That makes the combined changes a major upgrade which will, along with 64-bit and multi-core, be determinative of computing for the next decade.
    Anton Philidor